By Greg Klein
---- — The baseball writers may have thrown a strikeout on the election ballots, but the Baseball Hall of Fame still has a 2013 Induction Weekend to present.
That’s the message the Hall is spreading and the mission while preparing for the weekend, according to Senior Director of Communications and Education Brad Horn.
“The shock from last week has worn off, and our focus, as always, is on building events and bringing people to Cooperstown and creating as much excitement as possible,” Horn said.
On July 28, the Hall will posthumously induct three “Pre-Integration Era” members, former New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O’Day and 19th-century player Deacon White.
The Hall will present the Ford C. Frink Award posthumously to Tom Cheek, Toronto Blue Jays announcer, and the J.G. Taylor Spinks Award to Paul Hagen.
It is the first induction since 1965 that no inductees are alive.
“I know that there is the perception that because there are no living inductees, as well as no one elected by the writers, there won’t be people attending,” Horne said. “There are people who will come because there is an induction and they come every year to honor baseball’s history. Also, I know that the members will attend because part of what Induction Weekend is, is a time for them and their families to gather here and celebrate and honor their place in baseball history.”
The Hall also plans to do something special with this year’s Induction, honoring members who did not have ceremonies because of World War II. The honorees will include Lou Gehrig (1939) and Rogers Hornsby (1942), and the entire class of 1945: Roger Bresnahan, Dan Brouthers, Fred Clarke, Jimmy Collins, Ed Delahanty, Hugh Duffy, Hughie Jennings, King Kelly, Jim O’Rourke and Wilbert Robinson.
“We’ve known that this was a possibility, since it has happened before, and we have been preparing something for a long time,” Horn said.
With Yankees Gehrig and Ruppert, and New York native White, Horn said he hopes for a strong local turnout for the ceremony.
“We certainly have a favorable regional slant this year,” he said. “I think that we also have good inductees. Jacob Ruppert built Yankee Stadium and bought Babe Ruth’s contract. Hank O’Day umpired 10 World Series, which is still a record, and was one of the foremost arbiters in the National League. Deacon White was a 19th-century player who played every position and caught barehanded as a catcher.
“Our challenge is to pull it together,” he said.
As for the writer’s voting, Horn said he does not see the lack of inductees as protest by the writers because of the steroid issue, or as a catastrophe for Cooperstown or the Hall, but more like a statistical variance. This is the eighth time that no one was voted for induction by the writers; the last time it happened was 1996. But it has only happened twice in four decades.
“The understanding is that to earn election to the Hall of Fame is very difficult,” Horn said. “To earn 75 percent of the vote is meant to be hard. Part of the process is 600 ballots went out, and 569 were returned and only five were turned in blank. For the most part, a lot of guys got votes and are in the 15-year process of being reviewed.”
Horn said he believes Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are all in good position to be inducted soon. Biggio led all nominees of this year’s ballot with 68.2 percent, missing by 39 votes. Morris, who will be on his 15th and final ballot next year, had 67.7 percent of the vote.
Horn said the Hall is aware that there could be a larger than average induction in the next year or two. In addition to Biggio and Morris, next year’s ballot has Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas for the first time. Plus the veteran’s committee for 2014 is the Expansion Era, meaning Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and George Steinbrenner will be on the veteran’s ballot.
“There is the potential for a very strong class either next year or in the near future,” Horn said. “For us, we have to stay true to our mission, which is to focus on what is in front of us this year.”
As a Houston native, Horn said he is looking forward to Biggio’s eventually induction. No one has ever been inducted as a Houston Astro.
“My loyalties are split since I worked for the Texas Rangers, which is now a competitor franchise in the American League, and now I represent all 30 franchises,” Horne said, “but I do have a picture on my wall of Craig getting his 3,000th hit, and I have a good relationship with him. I think, historically speaking, he is in very good position to be inducted.”